Rose Park Sunday School (Adults and Children) at 8:45 a.m. / Worship at 9:45 a.m.

Madison Sunday School (Adults and Children) 10:15 a.m. / Worship at 11:15 a.m.

Feeling Inadequate

Based on Isaiah 6:1-13, 1Corinthinas 15:1-11, Luke 5:1-11

          Lynne Twist, in her book entitled, “The Soul of Money” writes the following:  “…For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of.…Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get or didn’t get done that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack.…This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life.…”

          Did that resonate with you?  I know that when I read that I saw the self-talk and lifestyle from a younger me.  It’s not surprising, really, feelings of inadequacy are everywhere in our culture – voices constantly tell us that we’re not enough.  Those voices compare us to someone other than who we are – some icon of fashion, beauty, strength, finesse, successfulness, wealth, power or prestige that the marketing mavens and social media influencers push on us.  They make it so that “even before our feet touch the floor” each day we are already feeling inadequate as compared to some fictional character or figment of our cultural imagination.

          The same can be said of the comparisons we make in our relationship to God and our spiritual growth.  Voices in the Church writ large are providing us comparative examples on how to believe, how we need to act, who and what we ought to read and who and how we should love.  The truth is that we can never measure up to these arbitrary yardsticks of faithfulness or sainthood.  Thankfully, our scriptures today speak to us about our feelings of inadequacy and the presence of God’s grace which gives us the ability to live into our beloved-ness.  Every one of our scriptures today shows someone feeling inadequate.  I call you to return to these scriptures in the coming week to listen closely to how God’s grace lifts them up, tells them that they are more than enough, and puts them on their way.  Let us go to God now in prayer that God’s grace never fails to lift us up, confirm our beloved-ness, and put us on our way…

          We have before us the call story of Isaiah who is given an epiphany of the LORD inside the Holy of Holies in the Temple.  God is surrounded by attendants with six wings who are praising God while they hover around the throne.  Isaiah is overtaken with awe and wonder, and he feels inadequate (the Hebrew is that “he is struck dumb”) with the realization that he is unworthy and yet is in the presence of God.  A seraph flies down and removes his unworthiness and Isaiah is ready when God calls for someone to go forth and prophesy.

          Paul is near the end of his first letter to the believers in Corinth.  In today’s reading he is speaking about his epiphany of the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus.  He compares himself to the original Disciples and yet says, “…I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God….”  Right after that revelation, Paul writes, “…But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain….” 

          Jesus is teaching and uses Peter’s fishing boat to put a little distance between himself and the crowd.  Once the lesson is finished, Jesus asks Peter to head out for a catch.  Peter is mystified by the request, as he had fished all night with no luck, but does what he’s asked by the teacher.  Two boat loads of fish result – and Peter’s epiphany moves him to understand that he is in the company of divinity.  He tells Jesus almost the same thing that Isaiah said to God.  Jesus tells him that he is enough as he is and that he will soon begin to catch people for God.

          We as humans constantly compare ourselves to things in our world.  We all seem to view our lives as if we are climbing a ladder (aka the ladder of success). Frank Fujita, a social researcher writes, “…Social comparisons can make us happy or unhappy.  Upward comparisons can inspire or demoralize us, whereas downward comparisons can make us feel superior or depress us.  In general, however, frequent social comparisons are not associated with life satisfaction or the positive emotions of love and joy but are associated with the negative emotions of fear, anger, shame and sadness….” This is why there is so much push-back on the heavily edited and curated social posts on Instagram, Facebook, etc – and why those fictional depictions of life are having such a detrimental effect on the mental health of people all across the world.

          Social researcher and author Brené Brown, in her book entitled, “Atlas of the Heart” has a whole chapter devoted to what happens when humans compare themselves to others.  She titled the chapter, “Places we go when we compare” and it lists those destinations as:  admiration, reverence, envy, jealousy, resentment, schadenfreude and freudenfreude.  Three of the places we land in our brains are positive and four are negative.  We all would like to constantly be in a place where our comparisons to others would land us in admiration, reverence or freudenfreude (celebrating another’s success).  However, unless we have a real solid foundation of self-esteem and self-worth, we often land in the other four.  Brown defines comparison as, “…the crush of conformity from one side and competition from the other – it’s trying to simultaneously fit in and stand out.  Comparison says, ‘Be like everyone else, but better’….”  No wonder we end up after comparing ourselves to others feeling inadequate.  We forget that the plan from God is not to create cookie-cutter copies of all humanity, but rather unique individuals with unique gifts and insights who work together for the common good.

          This constant comparison of ourselves to others causes us to wind up feeling inadequate.  That is why the presence of God’s grace is so very important.  It is what Paul told the Corinthians, Jesus told Peter and God told Isaiah – you are enough just the way you are.  God tells us all that God will be with you in all you are called to do, and God will provide what you need to accomplish what God has asked of you.  That is grace – God’s freely given gift of unconditional love, poured out on us even when we feel we are inadequate to the task.  Paul says, and I want each of you to repeat this at least daily this coming week (and any time you are feeling inadequate) “…by the grace of God I am what I am, and God’s grace towards me has not been in vain….”  Thanks be to God, amen!